Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is continuing to expand its gains in the Anbar Province, seizing a strategically valuable dam on the Euphrates river, giving them considerable control of Iraq’s water supply.
Underscoring just how valuable a prize the dam is, the militants closed a series of flood gates last week, flooding the area along the river being used by the Iraqi military as a staging area for an offensive against AQI-held Fallujah, and forcing the troops to retreat.
The closure of the gates has also significantly lowered water levels downstream, causing major electricity shortages in towns that use the river’s flow to generate energy, and also threatening irrigation in several Shi’ite cities.
AQI didn’t leave the gates closed for all that long, however, and reopened many of them for fear that the flooding might expand into their own territory.
Iraq’s Water Ministry dubbed the move a “heinous crime,” while Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki vowed to exact revenge for the loss of the dam with a full-scale military offensive.
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